There are many reasons people neglect daily prayer. This post will look at some of those reasons and how to overcome them.
Do you pray every day?
Some of the common reasons people give for not praying every day include:
- I never learned how to pray.
- My recited prayers have lost their meaning.
- My prayers have become a virtual “shopping list” of wants. When the wants run out, so does my prayer.
- I’m unsure of who or what to pray for.
- I don’t hear God’s side of the conversation.
- I feel too guilty about my sins to talk to God.
- I don’t have enough privacy.
- I can’t find the time to pray.
You might well be able to add to this list based on your personal experience. Great! Identifying obstacles is the first step in removing them.
How can we work past these hindrances and build a habit of consistent daily prayer?
We should begin by defining prayer. Prayer is multifaceted, but fundamentally, it is talking to God personally. We might compare it to communicating with any person. Saying nothing doesn’t build or maintain a meaningful relationship. Neither is it helpful to communicate only through a long list of requests for favors. And simply saying the same thing every time you talk would be odd!
Just as in any conversation, what you say to God must be meaningful.
How to begin building a habit of daily prayer
One way to start is by reviewing how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. This addresses the first two points above.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:9-13 are often called the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps you’ve been taught to recite it. But if we read how Jesus prefaced these words, we will avoid the pitfall of monotonous, prewritten prayers.
He began, “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7; emphasis added throughout).
After this warning against simply repeating empty phrases as prayers, He continued: “In this manner, therefore, pray” (verse 9). The English Standard Version reads: “Pray then like this.” Instead of the Lord’s Prayer, these verses should be viewed as the Lord’s guidelines on how to pray.
Christ later gave more instructions, both during His earthly ministry and by inspiring the writers of the New Testament.
If you want to learn more, read our How to Pray study guide.
Prayer is a powerful tool for good
Next, let’s establish that it isn’t wrong to ask God to provide for our needs and those of our loved ones.
Prayer is a powerful tool at our ready disposal by which we can serve others—people beyond those in our immediate circle. Part of Jesus’ model prayer includes asking our Father, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). But we should think beyond just our own needs. Prayer is a powerful tool at our ready disposal by which we can serve others—people beyond those in our immediate circle.
Christ inspired the apostle James to write, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Other translations put it: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power” (ESV) and “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (New International Version).
Knowing this should inspire us to go before God on behalf of others in need, having confidence that our prayers can help them. There are many people suffering from disease, accidental injury, violence, hunger and poverty. These people need our daily prayers!
God appreciates our praying to Him on behalf of others in need.
Other items to pray about
Our prayers should also incorporate additional themes. Notice what Paul told Timothy: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3, ESV).
Also, we ought to be thankful in our prayers. We are God’s children. Consider how appreciative any parent would be to hear a sincere thank-you from his or her children, not just infrequently, but often. Think about and list all that our Heavenly Father does for us. He gives us life itself, including the air we breathe and the food and drink that sustain us. His benefits are truly endless!
Probably everyone tends to slip into saying the same things with the same words, even when trying to avoid it. If that’s one of your issues, you can break out of this cycle with a little thought, planning and organization.
Some people find it helpful to jot down a few notes about things they want to pray about. Not to recite, but to jog their memories when they pray. You might pray about some issues more often than others, but that is not the rote repetition Jesus cautioned against.
Get to know God
Now, let’s expand on the obstacle of not hearing the other side of the conversation. Remember that prayer is talking to God. How can we talk sensibly to someone we don’t know?
Some people find it helpful to jot down a few notes about things they want to pray about. Not to recite, but to jog their memories when they pray. Studying the Bible is essentially listening to God. Through reading God’s Word, we get to know His thoughts, His desires, His instructions, His expectations for us and His overall plan for all people.
As we get to know God, we’ll find prayer—talking with Him about what He has said to us through His Word—comes more naturally.
God has inspired an encyclopedic insight into His mind through the Bible! It is so detailed that it must be broken down.
That often means receiving some guided instruction from God’s servants, so we can know how His Word applies to life. That may seem daunting, but it is actually quite workable and enjoyable.
For more information, see our article “How to Study the Bible”
The good and bad of guilt
Now, let’s talk about guilt.
Guilt can be a seemingly immovable blockade to daily prayer. A person is just too ashamed and embarrassed to come before God.
We should never minimize sin, but remember: While God is disappointed when we sin, He is never surprised. God knows that we are made of the dust of the ground—and He offers us a pathway to be forgiven of our sins.
Sure, it can be discouraging when we fail to live as we should. But the solution is to push ourselves to reengage with God if sin comes between us. Guilt should make us want to stop—stop sinning!—but not stop talking to God.
Our article “How to Deal With Guilt and Shame” will help you find your way back into a comfortable relationship with your Heavenly Father.
Private time and place
What about not having the time or a peaceful place to pray?
If your home situation is chaotic, you might need to explain to your spouse, family or roommate that some private time is crucial to you. Ask for their cooperation.
Jesus addressed this in His prayer training session with the disciples. He said, “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father” (Matthew 6:6).
We must put in the time and effort to find an acceptable place to pray privately without interruption. Other translations for “room” include “closet,” “inner chamber,” “most private room” and “inner room.” It need not be a room at all; it could be any private place, even outdoors. The concept is that an appropriate place to pray is where you can talk with God undisturbed and without distractions.
We must put in the time and effort to find an acceptable place to pray privately without interruption.
Also, we should note: “When you pray” leaves no margin for if you pray. And, since the training included praying for “daily bread,” the clear implication is that Christ expects His disciples to pray every day.
How? It might sound like an oversimplification, but just do it! Assertively carve out the time. Make it happen because the captain of your salvation (Hebrews 2:10) expects you to.
Make prayer happen
It might not come easily at first, but when you make prayer a daily habit, it will eventually become so natural that your day will feel incomplete without it. Time management coaches suggest that establishing a new habit takes three to four weeks. Be patient with yourself as you develop the habit of daily conversation with your Father in heaven.
Make it happen. Daily prayer is that important.
The subject of prayer is covered thoroughly in Part I of our newest book. To download your free copy, click here: Five Tools for Spiritual Growth. (Or, if you’d prefer to listen to the audio version, click here: Five Tools for Spiritual Growth audio book.)